Urban Solace is for the soul

Just Over Ten Years Ago, Perry Menzies Wanted To Create A Space For Aspiring Artistes To Showcase Their Talent. That, Coupled With The Desire To Get Into The Food And Beverage Industry, Saw The Birth Of Urban Solace…

For some it’s from their apartments, for others it’s from the park on the North side, but for a lot of people, Ulsoor Lake is at its grandest from the tables at Urban Solace, where a mixture of fine wine, food and conversation makes for a grand experience.

“Urban Solace is positioned as a café for the soul. We started in November 2009. I was traveling in the US on a holiday and during that journey, something changed. I had been in advertising all my adult life, and I suddenly wanted to pack my bags, come back and start something fresh,” says Perry Menzies, among the warmest people you will ever meet.

But, leave aside the food and the beverage, the idea of Urban Solace is more than just about its name, essence and spirit. While Perry knew that food and wine would be important pillars to his success, it was the experience bit that he hinged on to bring him the customers.

“The experience part of Urban Solace is what makes us special. We have been curating an average of 25 events every month and the space is often used by other people to curate their own events. We were the first café in the country to come up with live poetry. Each Tuesday we featured new poets, and it’s a very personal heart-wrenching experience and people liked it,” Perry says.

While 25 events a month seems nailed-on in terms of bums on seats, Perry says he was never sure about the response he would get, or even the date or time for the second event when the first one got underway.

“We had no clue who our second poet was. We simply surrendered every idea and desire to the universe and allowed the universe to manifest the result that we seek. We have managed to do 350 evenings of poetry. We have given our stage to anyone who wants to showcase their talents.”

From poets who published their first work to then hosting comedians on a weekly basis, Perry says the shift in the paradigm got a lot more people talking about Urban Solace and its events.

“It was so hard to find comedians ten years ago. We branded it ‘LOL at Urban Solace’ but we mixed it with music and stories, because we didn’t get comedians. Over a period of time, we were given the unofficial title of being the ‘Cradle of Comedy’ in Bangalore.”

As the conversation goes on, Perry’s eyes light up as he speaks about some of the comedians who have gone on to make it big on the national and global stage, from humble beginnings at Urban Solace.

“We’re proud and honoured that some of India’s leading comedians today, had their birth over here. People like Kanan Gill, Kenneth Sebastian, Sumukhi Suresh, Biswa Kalyan Rath, Naveen Richard; all of them started their first even in the spotlight, doing comedy in the open mic. We’re honoured that their journey as comedians started at Urban Solace.”

Experiences were added with music, books and a lot more, and Perry says it was his trip to the US, and a visit to Starbucks that changed him. “I’ve had coffee from at least a hundred Starbucks in my lifetime. Their efficiency, running an entire store with just two or three people, caught me and I knew I had to go back and do something.”

Having celebrated 10 years of Urban Solace in late 2019, the pandemic could not have come at a more inopportune moment for Perry, who says things have never looked worse. “I was caught completely unawares, and nothing close to this has ever happened to me. I welcomed a break, because I had never taken a day off in ten years. But I didn’t think it would be so bad. For Urban Solace, it’s a disaster.”

Looking back on packed nights has Perry worried that things will never be the same again. With rent to pay and empty tables for most part of the day, Perry confirms.

“I’m a perpetual optimist, and that’s why I reopened. It was predominant in my thinking that maybe I should call it quits. But I didn’t, and it’s been hugely rewarding when you see customers who come, five months after the lockdown, and tell you their first visit out of the house has been to Urban Solace.”

With his business looking increasingly bleak, Perry refuses to cave in and says he will do his best to keep Urban Solace afloat. “The stress factor is very high right now because I’m unable to cover even rent. We’ve been putting out a few initiatives to try and get people to support us. Maybe it was too early, but not many people have been buying into that either.”

The ‘Café for the soul’ tag is not just a cliché, as Perry speaks about Urban Solace like a baby he has grown over the last decade, and one that he refuses to turn his back on. “These last ten years have been exceedingly rewarding, purely on a human and personal level. Financially, it’s a different story, but I’ve been happy. I opened Urban Solace because I wanted to meet beautiful people, have amazing conversations and there’s very little that’s more important to me. I’m going to keep going as long as I can.”

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